National Ag News for April 20, 2023

Continuing Contract Negotiations at West Coast Ports Concerning

Increasing attention is getting devoted to the West Coast port contract negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The concern is because of the recent and continued slowdowns and temporary work stoppages at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. “Given how the tension between the two parties appears to be increasing, this topic will likely remain a significant point of discussion for the foreseeable future,” says Mike Steenhoek (STEEN-hook), executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition. A recent work stoppage from April 6 to April 7 at both ports and the subsequent slowdowns were “deliberately disruptive,” according to the PMA, the group that represents 70 terminal operators. The two parties have been negotiating a new five-year contract since July 1, 2022. These negotiations don’t apply to the bulk of exports of soybeans and grain from Pacific Northwest ports, which operate under separate contracts.  

Farm Lending Slows as Interest Rates Rise

Growth in farm lending activity at commercial banks was limited in the first quarter of 2023 as interest rates climbed higher. The Kansas City Fed says alongside additional increases in the federal funds’ rates, interest rates on farm loans rose sharply. The rapid rise has shifted the range of rates offered to borrowers considerably higher. Non-real estate farm loan volumes decreased about 10 percent from the previous year in the first quarter of 2023, following average growth of 15 percent in 2022. Lending activity was pushed down by fewer new loans and smaller-sized operating loans. The outlook for farm finances remains favorable alongside elevated commodity prices, but higher interest rates, increased production costs, and drought remain key ongoing concerns. Strong farm income during recent years has bolstered liquidity for many producers and supported historically strong farm loan performance. Despite higher interest rates, the availability of credit remains strong at agricultural banks.

USCA Affirming Safety, Transparency of Beef Supply Chain

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association responded to efforts in the Missouri State Legislature to regulate products sold, distributed for use, or administered to a person that are designed to alter their genome. Missouri House Bill 1169 attempts to implement a regulatory framework for labeling products that could act as “gene therapy” or that could potentially impact, alter, or introduce genetic material or a genetic change in the user. This came about because of concerns that mRNA vaccines are being introduced into the nation’s cattle supply. “The USCA strongly supports truth in labeling on consumer goods and full transparency throughout the supply chain,” the group said in a statement. “Currently, there are no mRNA vaccines licensed for beef cattle in the U.S..” Similar legislation is also being introduced in Tennessee, Arizona, and other states. The USCA will be forming a task force to develop a fact- and science-based assessment of the issue.

WOTUS Veto Override Fails in Congress

The House of Representatives was unsuccessful in getting enough votes to override President Biden’s veto of legislation undoing a rule defining the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction. The vote failed 227-196 and didn’t meet the two-thirds requirement for overriding a presidential veto. Successful Farming says Republicans persuaded ten Democrats to vote against the Biden EPA’s rule, including House Ag Ranking Member David Scott (D-GA) and Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA). The rule specified what wetlands, streams, and other waterways qualify for federal protection as Waters of the United States. Critics like farmers, land developers, and construction companies have called the policy “extreme government overreach.” In March, both the House and Senate passed a disapproval resolution with bipartisan support that would have scrapped Biden’s Waters of the U.S. Rule. Two federal judges have issued preliminary injunctions against implementing the WOTUS rule in 26 states while lawsuits are heard regarding the validity of the regulation.

The Number of Dairy Herds Fell in 2022

A USDA report says roughly six percent of U.S. dairy farms quit milking cows in 2022, but that was a slower rate of decline than during the past five years. Twenty years ago, there were 70,375 dairy herds in the country. In 2022, there were 27,932 herds, down from 29,842 in 2021. Calendar-year 2022 saw an exit of 1,910 dairy herds across the nation, which was about six percent of the country’s dairy operations.  That compares to a loss of 1,794 herds nationwide, or 5.7 percent of the country’s total, in 2021. However, the decline was larger during the previous three years. Over the past two decades, the U.S. lost an average of 2,300 dairy herds per year. Meanwhile, dairy cow numbers dropped slightly. The average herd size is growing, and per-cow and total milk production have increased. The average dairy herd size reached a record high of 337 head in 2022.

NCBA Files Comments on USDA Traceability Rule

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association filed comments on the USDA’s proposed traceability rule. The rule would emphasize the importance of electronic animal identification to protect the cattle industry from the threat of a foreign animal disease. USDA’s proposed rule would apply to cattle 18 months or older only when moving interstate. “Traceability is about risk protection and ensuring we have the tools to quickly identify and respond to an outbreak while strengthening consumer trust in our high-quality beef,” says NCBA President Todd Wilkinson. “Our comments emphasize protecting U.S. cattle herds from the threat of a foreign animal disease while also protecting producers’ private data, limiting the cost of tagging devices, and operating at the speed of commerce.”  Without a national traceability system in place, the impact of a foreign animal disease outbreak would be magnified. The system would also support cattle producers in quickly returning to normal operations after an outbreak.


By Tucker Allmer - The BARN

Tucker Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.